Hope Fades for Locating Survivors in 'Pure Hell'

By | July 7, 2008 | 8:19 PM EDT

New York (CNSNews.com) - After the remains of the World Trade Center's south tower collapsed late Wednesday afternoon, emergency crews continued their grim work through the night, as more smoke billowed over Manhattan and engineers kept a wary eye on more unstable buildings.

New York City Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen told reporters that all structures in the area will undergo safety checks.

For the thousands of construction workers, EMS workers, search and rescue teams, and firefighters who toiled amid the carnage, hopes of finding anyone still alive were fading.

With the help of large searchlights, many of those working around-the-clock at "ground zero" had a personal stake in the search. They were looking for people they knew. Over 200 New York City firefighters and 57 police officers are still unaccounted for.

Along with heavy machinery, workers stood shoulder-to-shoulder picking up pieces of debris, passing it along hand-by-hand to waiting dump trucks.

One unidentified rescue worker said, "There are body parts everywhere. Sometimes we pass along a brick or a piece of concrete and send it down the line. Sometimes we pass along...I'd rather not even say the things I've seen and touched there. It's hell -- pure hell."

A shift in the wind Wednesday sent a cloud of smoke, dust and ash drifting north to upper Manhattan.

Late Wednesday afternoon, New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton
got a firsthand look at the destruction. "The impact, seeing it firsthand, shows what a total hell this is," said Clinton.

Since Tuesday, ten people have been pulled from the debris alive, and officially, the city's death toll stands at 82 confirmed dead.

"The best estimate we can make is that there will be a few thousand (victims) left in each building," Mayor Giuliani told reporters. Giuliani confirmed that the city had requested 6,000 body bags from federal officials. News reports on Thursday said the city had ordered 5,000 more, for a total of 11,000.

Joe Allbaugh, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, arrived in New
York and was "stunned by the devastation," but praised the spirit of New Yorkers. "I was impressed with New Yorkers on the street."

During the day and even at night, people lined up along the West Side Highway, sometimes as many as four people deep, waving American flags and cheering on emergency workers who passed by.

Getting back to normal

Mayor Giuliani, along with city, state, and regional officials have been working feverishly to restore some normalcy to a shattered city.

New York City public and private schools were reopening Thursday, along with many area colleges. In addition, the bright lights of Broadway will be back on, as the theatre district reopens. City libraries and museums will also be open.

Transportation, which has been severely impacted, will find some of the congestion easing. The Lincoln Tunnel, Port Authority Bus Terminal, and a portion of the George Washington Bridge reopened Thursday morning. All bus service between New York and New Jersey resumed as well.

However, all streets below 14th Street remain closed, along with all bridges linking Brooklyn and lower Manhattan. The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and Holland Tunnel will remain closed indefinitely, as will the Staten Island Ferry.

Area airports may have limited operations in place before the end of Thursday, depending on what the FAA decides.

In the late evening hours Wednesday, police responded to bomb threats at Penn Station and at the Empire State Building. In both cases, no devices were found.